Photo: clarkmaxwell, Flickr Creative Commons
A while back I posted about my decision to pick another NHL team to follow after losing the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg. When I wrote that post, I had already basically made my decision. The Chicago Blackhawks were the closest team to what I needed for this experiment in forced fandom. Only four games into the season, I've been able to watch three games, so exposure will be sufficient for me. True, most of the live games are blacked out where I live, but I don't watch live sports anyway. I can't bear the commercials. I'm not sure how people sit through a live NFL game. The commercial breaks are ridiculous. Also, hockey games have the annoying habit of being on weeknights or during college football and Falcons games. I'm not going to watch them live anyway. Fortunately, it seems that nearly every live game is replayed later that night or the next day without the blackout. I have a Blackhawks timer on my DVR and I just watch the game at a better time for me. It's surprisingly easy, living in Georgia, to not have the game spoiled between the time the game is played and I watch it. I just don't hover over the NHL tab while browsing ESPN.com.
A couple of observations at this point in the experiment:
- It's weird cheering for a team that is expected to be good. A record of 2-1-1 isn't great, but the team was without its starting goalie to start the season. They actually went and found some random amateur goalie to fill in at practice at one point. 2-1-1 is also pretty good by hockey standards. Last year Pittsburgh had the most wins in the NHL. They only won 49 of 82 games. That's like a 9- or 10-win NFL team. It's a winning record but not much of one. Hockey results seem to involve a lot more luck than most sports.
- Fandom isn't coming naturally yet. In most games I feel mild excitement and hope at the right moments and seem to naturally want them to win, although it's not to the level I felt with the Thrashers. When the 'Hawks win it's more like "That's nice." I'm hoping to eventually get it to a "Woohoo!" The sheer number of games in an NHL season will prevent my emotional investment in any single game from reaching anywhere near that I feel with the handful of games played by Georgia Tech or the Atlanta Falcons, but it should be more than this.
- The first regular season game I watched the 'Hawks play was against the Winnipeg Jets, the team that used to be the Atlanta Thrashers. There were several points, hearing names I knew and used to cheer for, when I actually cheered for the wrong team. It's hard to quit Byfuglien, but I'll try. At least Hossa used to play for the Thrashers and I liked him then.
Also, how did more goalies not die before they started wearing helmets and masks?